RETREET redefines disaster relief by engaging communities to replant lost trees.
PORT ARANSAS RETREET November 2nd-4th, 2018
Last June, our executive director, Grady McGahan, gave the keynote speech at the 50th Keep Texas Beautiful Annual Conference opening luncheon. He told the crowd all about our unique mission and diverse community, as well as the fortuitous series of events that brought both into being. After his presentation, representatives from Keep Port Aransas Beautiful (KPAB) approached Grady to ask him to come speak in Port Aransas to inspire local volunteers. He agreed. A date was set for his visit — August 29th, 2017.
A week before his speech was to take place at the Port Aransas Community Theater, Grady received a call from KPAB. The decision had been made to cancel the event due to a large storm approaching from the Gulf of Mexico. Two days later, on August 25th, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall.
THIS MAP OF HURRICANE HARVEY’S PATH WAS HAND DRAWN IN REAL TIME BY FEMA
A category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph, Hurricane Harvey left behind $125 billion in damage and 104 casualties in the US alone. Port Aransas took a direct hit.
While the Port Aransas Community Theater suffered heavy damage that morning, Grady’s name and the information regarding his speech miraculously remained on the marquee. KPAB sent Grady a photo of the marquee along with a request that he reschedule his visit. Instead of coming to speak about RETREET’s mission, he would lead RETREET in replanting Port Aransas. Dates were set for Port Aransas RETREET, the first of several intended replantings along the Texas coast.
PORT ARANSAS COMMUNITY THEATER MARQUEE AFTER HURRICANE HARVEY MADE LANDFALL
We first spoke with our national partner Keep America Beautiful (KAB) about our plans for Port Aransas. They generously offered $15,000 in support of Port Aransas RETREET from their Community Restoration and Resiliency Fund, which was established to assist affiliates, like KPAB, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The Home Depot Foundation offered $14,400 of trees, tools, and supplies, making this the twelfth consecutive RETREET they have supported over the past three years. Port Aransas RETREET also was made a Team Depot event for the district surrounding Corpus Christi, meaning numerous Home Depot volunteers would show up to plant with us.
Several other partners joined our growing coalition. Keep Texas Beautiful, through their Rebuilding Texas Fund, pledged $5,000 in aid, as did Keep Port Aransas Beautiful and EY. Huwa Enterprises sent a scientist to test soil samples across Port Aransas a month ahead of time to ensure our trees would survive, and donated 80 pounds of ribeye steak for our community dinner on Saturday night. Uncle Rick from Cash Cowboys also planned to join us for the planting. Port Aransas RETREET would be an episode in the show’s second season.
Residents of Port Aransas began requesting trees through our website in September. Working with longstanding sponsor Tree Town USA, we hand-selected 150 15-gallon native live oaks, cedar elms, and wax myrtles, all on the approved species list for the area provided by our partner Texas A&M Forest Service.
Two weeks before the planting, a utility locate request was submitted for each property. Then, a time was set with every resident to meet one-on-one with a member of Team Locate, a group of certified arborists who donate their time to determine proper planting locations on behalf of RETREET.
OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PERSONALLY SELECTED THE TREES FOR PORT ARANSAS RETREET
RETREET staff arrived in Port Aransas on Wednesday, October 31st, 2018, as did the RETREETmobile, filled with RETREETers from Dallas. Over the course of the next two days, thirty RETREETers from all over the US gathered in Port Aransas. They helped deliver trees and planting supplies, marked remaining planting locations, and set about preparing food and decorations for the celebratory dinner we would host at City of Port Aransas Civic Center on Saturday evening.
With all of the prep work finished, the group enjoyed a bonfire beach party by Rollin’ Tide Boil Co. Local band Larkin Brothers came to serenade the crowd, who were also shown a presentation about Port Aransas, the effects of Hurricane Harvey, and the impact we would make in the community.
A BONFIRE BEACH PARTY FOR RETREETERS ON FRIDAY NIGHT
On Saturday, November 3rd, 2018, 78 volunteers gathered at City of Port Aransas Civic Center. They were welcomed by our executive director, Grady McGahan, the nature preserve manager, Colleen Simpson, Port Aransas city councilwoman and KPAB board member, Joan Holt, and the mayor of Port Aransas, Charles Bujan. After observing a proper tree planting demonstration given by Bill Green, the regional Texas A&M Forest Service community forester, the volunteers were broken into small groups and sent to home sites.
That afternoon, they planted 150 native trees at 88 homes and at the town animal shelter, library, and nature center headquarters in a mere 5 hours.
THE PORT ARANSAS RETREET PLANTING GROUP
A Celebration of Community at City of Port Aransas Civic Center immediately followed the planting, sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka. The entire town of Port Aransas received an invitation to free dinner, drinks, and live music, along with a chance to get to know our the members of our community.
Chef Justin Box traveled from Dallas to prepare a surf and turf masterpiece, featuring fresh gulf shrimp from legendary local boat The Polly Anna, smoked ribeye from Huwa Reserve, couscous salad, and roasted vegetables. H-E-B provided $300 worth of ingredients for the feast, and IGA contributed $100.
Tito’s Handmade vodka served up apple cider mules and Lazy Beach Brewing offered a selection of local craft beer. Corpus Christi band Scarecrow People and 2014 Dallas Observer Music Awards winner Dezi 5 (Best Live Act) entertained the crowd well into the evening. A Celebration of Community was a very well attended and unforgettable event.
A SURF AND TURF FEAST PREPARED BY CHEF JUSTIN BOX
On Sunday, November 4th, 2018, RETREETers toured Port Aransas, took a boat ride through the bay past the Lydia Ann Lighthouse, planted a few more trees, and enjoyed one last dinner together before heading home. They also enjoyed watching and reading the press that Port Aransas RETREET received, including this article from Corpus Christi Caller Times and the news stories below.
Our thanks go out to all of the sponsors, partners, and volunteers who made Port Aransas RETREET possible. The unique, generational impact we made together in Port Aransas reestablished the environmental identity of that community, providing shade for islanders and habitat for birds and other wildlife.